Tacoma firefighter/paramedic creates documentary highlighting need for mental health support

A firefighter/paramedic for the city of Tacoma has spent the last year working with his crew to create a documentary highlighting the need for mental health attention for all firefighters.

When there is an emergency, first responders put their lives on the line to keep you safe, but who is there to save the first responders?

The difficult calls and the traumatizing visuals stick around.

"Nightmares, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, all of these are side effects that come from doing our job," said Cody Shea.

Shea is a firefighter/paramedic for the city of Tacoma. He comes from a firefighter family. He says being a firefighter was always his dream

 "I love my job. I love helping people. I love making a difference," he said.

Over the last year, Shea has been working to help a different group of people, his brothers and sisters in the fire department.

Shea sat down, with his camera, and spoke to ten members of the fire department. He says he’s known some of these people for years, but not like this.

The members of the Tacoma Fire Department shared some of the most intimate and emotional details of the hardships they have faced on the job.

From these stories, Shea created the film The Call We Carry.

"Those people, in my mind, are the heroes. Those are the ones that stepped up and said I’m going to tell my story in hopes that is going to help another firefighter struggling, or another first responder," he said.

Originally, the goal of the film was to highlight peer support, which is a program that offers mental health support for first responders. 

Tacoma Fire Department Chief Tory Green says in recent years, peer support has been in high-demand, and there was a need to highlight its work.

Working with peer support, Green asked Shea to create a five-minute video for online purposes for the department.

Shea quickly realized five minutes would not be enough to tell these stories and told Green he planned to make a feature-length film.

"The sounds the smells the things you don’t ever forget. And you tuck them away, but this video drew those things back out, I felt incredibly raw after seeing it for the first time," said Green.

Originally, the video would have only been shown in-house. Now, the film is showing at a public movie theater in Tacoma giving more people the opportunity to see these stories.

Green believes the documentary will have a huge impact.

"I think this video is going to save people’s lives," he said.

For Shea, this is not just an opportunity to give other people an outlet, because this is his story too.

"I don’t think the film solves anything. I think it facilitates a conversation that most in the fire station have been afraid to talk about until now."

The Call We Carry premiered at the Blue Mouse in Tacoma on Tuesday night, and also played Wednesday night. Hundreds of people have come out for both nights. 

The Call We Carry has two more showings Thursday night at the Blue Mouse.